PAX 2013 Report – ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ Hands-On

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I first got the opportunity to play the new Wolfenstein at E3, and I was immediately hooked. MachineGames, a team of developers that peeled-away from Starbreeze Studios, helms the next entry in this iconic series, and their skills are apparent from the first moments of the demo. I at down to play about 45 minutes of the game, which was running on a high-end PC. The demo starts with BJ Blazkowicz (you) and a few other soldiers scaling up a wall while taking fire from Nazis firing from the windows you approach (I actually flashed-back to the 60’s Batman series in my head for some reason, just picturing Batman and Robin “climbing up” a building, but I digress.) I died on my first try, but not because of any issues with the game. Instead of keyboard and mouse, controls were handled with a 360 controller, and I forgot what button ‘X’ was on it.

You and your team make your way through the castle and eventually get split-up, so it’s up to you to roll through the Nazis roaming the various hallways to eventually find your objective. Visually, the game is excellent, with detailed textures and copious amounts of lighting. Weapons feel and sound excellent, and the shooting is wonderful. Even using a controller, I had no problems cutting-down waves of those Nazi bastards as I searched side rooms for hidden items. The level design too, is very well done. It actually feels like you’re in a castle instead of just a bunch of hallways made to look like you are. At one point, I actually had to climb out of a window and shimmy across a ledge to the other side, but halfway around window shutters began to open as I quickly took fire from the soldiers that emerged. Because I was on such a precarious foothold, I wasn’t able to to aim down the sights, making the tension rise quite a bit.

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Next up was a huge circular courtyard that I was a few floors above. Enemies had my compatriots pinned-down, so once I knifed the soldier firing from a machine gun turret, I pulled the large weapon from it’s mount and proceeded to mow the rest down, in a very satisfying spray of bullets I might add. Oh, they tried to hide behind some large, stone pillars, but that cover was no match for the hell that was spewing from the barrel. I hooked-back up with my squad as we made our way into what seemed like some kind of medical facility within a tower of the castle, but what we found was the remains of a pretty horrific experiment instead. Bodies were hung-up on large metal devices, and all of the victims were obviously dead. Above each was a large furnace burner, which we found out when a squad member accidentally set them off. As I scrambled to find a key for the door, the flames got worse, and we barely made it out alive before the entire room was engulfed in flames. We weren’t out of the woods yet though, because the room that we “escaped” into had no other door beside the one we had just gone through.

As I searched around, something bashed through the floor without warning (and startled the hell out of me!) What emerged was a Nazi soldier encased in a huge metal suit, almost impervious to anything, As he chased me around the room, I shot straight at his ugly face, but even then, it took quite a bit to dispatch him. The animation was smooth as butter too, and the entire scene was really impressive. We immediately started looking for a way out of the room, when we noticed a Nazi officer behind the door that we’d previously come through. He asked what we were doing there, then the walls began to close-in on us. The screen went dark, and when I could see again, more of those mechanical soldiers were holding us down, as this lunatic began to taunt all of us with threats of cutting someone’s eyes out. It was creepy as hell as he slowly and methodically checked each of my squad mates, ultimately choosing two as the prime candidates. Then he instructed BJ to choose which one would lose his eyes. If a decision wasn’t made, both would die. This really brought-on an actual emotional response in me. Do I choose the seasoned veteran that was a valuable soldier, or did I choose the young recruit? It took me a few long seconds, but I finally looked at the young guy, signaling my choice, and as the camera moved-in on BJ’s face, the sounds of a man being separated from his eyes were enough to affect anyone. The doctor and his guards began to leave the room, but one was ordered to stay and watch the rest. The escape plan went in to action immediately, as your squad leader jumped on the metal monster’s back while you quickly grabbed a pipe and jammed it into his exposed back, taking him down quickly. The bars covering the window were quickly pried open, and as you leapt out to the water below, the soldier exploded into a shower of shrapnel, some of which tore into BJ’s head, knocking him out.

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I was wrong when I thought that this was the end of the demo, as the black screen once again came alive, showing BJ in a wheelchair and being examined by a doctor and nurse. A narrative scene let me know that BJ was found floating in the water, and taken to a psychiatric facility in Poland, where years quickly passed-by in a pretty cool visual scene, as everything changed while BJ sat in his wheelchair in a the corner of the room, unable to communicate. During those years, a Nazi officer would occasionally appear, taking patients forcibly from the facility. At some point though, he showed-up to shut the pace down. The doctor, who always fought to protect the patients, but always lost, was shot by one of the soldiers. Then he started shooting everyone else in the room, and every shot brought a little more color into BJ’s vision. The shots were waking his brain up, and when the officer finally made it to BJ, still in the corner, I hit a button to stab the killer in the neck, with a knife that I had grabbed when the shooting started. Finally awake after who knows how long, I had to make my way through the hospital to escape, but all I had was a Luger and a knife, and there were a lot of Nazis in my way.

I have to say, I’ve always been a fan of the Wolfenstein series, and from what I’ve seen so far, this could easily be one of the best entries. It’s top quality from top to bottom, and the story is insanely interesting. The fact that, in this timeline, the Nazis won the war and are currently in control makes the possibilities very intriguing. I just love the story mechanic that BJ wakes up but still has his old-school sensibilities. He hasn’t been mentally beaten into submission like the population under Nazi rule probably have. Even with the larger scope and new technologies, this definitely has the potential at bringing that classic Wolfenstein formula to the modern age. 2014 is too long to wait for this one for me, but I guess that I don’t have a choice.

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